Health secretary warns against joining Black Lives Matter protests amid 'horrific' coronavirus pandemic

The health secretary has warned people against joining Black Lives Matter protests this weekend, pointing out that "we’re still facing a health crisis and coronavirus remains a real threat".

Matt Hancock told the government's daily coronavirus press conference that people should remember the rules, that they “should not attend large gatherings, including demonstrations, of more than six people”.

Protests, including several in the UK, are due to take place this weekend as people share their outrage over the killing of George Floyd in the US.

Mr Hancock admitted being "appalled" by the man's death at the hands of a police officer, but said "it is vital that people stick to the rules this weekend is to protect themselves and their family from this horrific disease".

He also announced that hospital visitors and outpatients will need to wear face coverings in England from June 15.

All hospital staff will be required to wear surgical masks in England from the same date, he said.

He told the daily Downing Street press conference: “As the NHS reopens right across the country, it’s critically important to stop the spread amongst staff, patients and visitors too.

“So today we’re setting out that all hospital visitors and outpatients will need to wear face coverings.

“One of the things that we’ve learnt is that those in hospital, those who are working in hospital, are more likely to catch coronavirus whether they work in a clinical setting or not.

“And so to offer even greater protection we’re also providing new guidance for NHS staff in England which will come into force again on June 15 and all hospital staff will be required to wear type one or two surgical masks.

“And this will cover all staff working in hospital, it will apply at all times – not just when they are doing life-saving work on the frontline – and it will apply in all areas, except those areas designated as Covid-secure workplaces.”

He's speaking just hours after donating his Covid-19 antibodies to a trial which aims to assess whether antibodies from survivors can be used to treat those currently battling the virus.

The health secretary is likely to face accusations from journalists that lockdown was relaxed too soon after the government’s chief scientific adviser said the reproduction rate (R number) of coronavirus, could be as high as one in some parts of England.

The overall UK R value remains unchanged since the easing of lockdown measures at between 0.7 and 0.9, Sir Patrick Vallance told a virtual briefing with journalists on Friday.

But the R - used to measure how a disease spreads through a population - for England by itself is 0.7 - 1, according to Office for National Statistics figures released on Friday.

While the ONS figures show community transmission continue to show a downward trend, the overall R number is being dragged up by infection rates in hospitals and care homes.

Sir Patrick told journalists on Friday there were “roughly” 39,000 new coronavirus cases each week.

  • Watch Friday's press conference in full: